For almost 40 years, comedian George Gobel was a fixture on national television. Like Phyllis Diller who was spotlighted yesterday, he has been badly forgotten. While he had a tv show that lasted for 6 years, that has never been rerun.
He had his own popular show that began on NBC in 1954. It showcased his quiet, homespun style of humor, a low-key alternative to what audiences had seen with Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. The show also featured actress Jeff Donnell as his wife “spooky old” Alice. His real life wife was also named Alice. The show lasted in various forms until 1960. Some of the great comedy talents were writers on this show including Hal Kanter, Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear.
Gobel also was a regular in Vegas and appeared all throughout the country. He appeared on Broadway and films, as well. He became a regular on variety shows such as Dean Martin, game shows including becoming a regular (replacing Charley Weaver) on Hollywood Squares, Match Game and countless talk shows.
Gobel was also an excellent businessperson. With his business manager David P. O’Malley he formed a production company, Gomalco, a composite of their last names Gobel and O’Malley. This company also produced the first four years (1957–61) of the 1957-63 television series Leave it to Beaver.
In an often-replayed segment from the 3/6/1969 episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (linked below), Gobel followed Bob Hope and Dean Martin, walking onstage with a plastic cup with an unidentified drink. Gobel ribbed Carson about coming on last and having to follow major stars Hope and Martin. He quipped to Carson, “Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?”, to which Carson, Hope, Martin, and the audience came unglued with laughter. After the laughter died down, Carson asked Gobel about his career in World War II as a fighter pilot. Gobel feigned bewilderment at why people laugh when he says that he spent the war in Oklahoma, pointing out that no Japanese plane ever got past Tulsa. Gobel also began to get some unexpected laughs, being unaware that Dean Martin had begun flicking his cigarette ashes into Gobel’s drink. Observing all of this, Carson finally asked rhetorically, “Exactly what time did I lose control of the show?!”
George Gobel died in 1991, shortly after undergoing heart surgery. He was survived by his wife Alice and three children